America’s intel and security service FBI had helped India’s National Investigation Agency in its probe into the Pulwama terrorist attack with two key inputs — it identified the point person the handlers were in touch with and also the nature of explosives used in the blast.
“We are thankful for the valuable inputs received from… foreign law enforcement agencies, such as the FBI, to nail the accused… and weed out nefarious designs of Pakistan to foment terrorism in the Valley,” NIA spokesperson Sonia Narang told TOI on Wednesday.
The FBI had helped NIA crack the WhatsApp account run by a Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) spokesperson who had been in touch with a core group involved in the attack.
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The WhatsApp account on the Kashmir-based mobile phone was operated by Mohammad Hussain, traced to Muzaffarabad in Pakistan. But the number (which TOI is withholding) had been registered under the name of a woman from Budgam. “The woman had died in 2011.
And before that she lived in some other village in another district. Since it is not possible to trace WhatsApp and Facebook information of an account that operates outside India, FBI helped crack those,” a top NIA official told TOI.
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The FBI also helped NIA track down what explosives had been used in the Pulwama incident. “Ammonium nitrate, nitroglycerine and gelatin sticks. This was later confirmed by our own Central Forensic Science Laboratory team,” the official said.
The cache had been brought in three consignments of 10-12 kg slabs in 2018 a year before the attack. One was brought by Munna Lahori in March, another by Umar Farooq in April and the last by Mohammad Ismail Lambu in May.
The statement shared by the agency said this "marks the culmination of a year-and-a-half-long painstaking and meticulous investigation with valuable inputs received from other Central and state government agencies as well as foreign law enforcement agencies.
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A lot of digital, forensic, documentary and oral evidence establishing a fool-proof case against the accused was collected.” After decryption, for instance, phone records had revealed that Farooq had told his handlers that Rs 5.7 lakh had been spent on logistics, Rs 1.7 lakh on explosives and Rs 2.2 lakh on a car.
A top NIA member who was involved in the investigation said the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In), too, gave valuable inputs. It helped them uncover images of explosives being made, as well as deleted selfies from “infiltration points” at Samba and Hiranagar.
“The phone had multi-tiered security and encryption. It was CERT-In which came to our rescue,” the official said.
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CERT-In also helped NIA with the coordinates for Lahori (Narowal), Farooq (Londi) and Lambu (Beil) in Pakistan. “They would enter via Shakargarh which was also used in the Gurdaspur attack in 2015 and other attacks in the Valley," said a top official.
The terrorists who brought the explosives were, in turn, smuggled into the country with help from Valley locals Ashiq Ahmad Negroo, who is absconding, and Iqbal Rather, who has been arrested.